UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON

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peace in his heart and mind. Then he steps outside his cell and hears filthy talk everywhere he goes. He can’t tell anyone to stop or “shut up”. He can’t explain to anyone why that offends him. A new Christian can lose his joy and peace rather quickly in such an environment if he doesn’t keep relying on God for steadfast peace and joy.

Another factor of stress can be unkind officers or guards. Some are kind but some are mean and hateful towards inmates. Some are prejudice towards Christians and just hate them. As one gets to know the officers, one will start looking at the front door during shift change to see what officers are working. From that, an inmate can determine what kind of day, he will have during that shift. There are times that an inmate won’t even want to come out of his cell when certain officers are working, just out of fear of getting a ticket.

There are two kinds of tickets – major one or a minor one. Both will activate top lock, which means that an inmate has to stay in his cell for a certain amount of time, usually anywhere from one day to a couple of weeks. Some minor tickets for top lock can be taken care of with extra duty. Extra duty is doing some work around the unit like taking out the trash or mopping a floor. By doing the extra duty, the officer will throw away the minor ticket.

On the other hand, major tickets are recorded on an inmate’s permanent institutional record. When the time comes, major tickets are factored in the decision of whether or not an inmate will be released from prison. Some major tickets can put an inmate in the “hole” or segregation. In segregation, an inmate has to go to a place where he will only be allowed to wear a jumpsuit instead of normal state clothing. He will be locked in a cell all day except for one hour when he can go to the yard. He eats his meals in his cell and can only take a couple of showers a week. A person can stay in the hole for a few days or up to a few months.

Unfortunately, just because your friend or loved one tries to do right does not mean that the officers will leave him alone or respect him. There are many officers that are just as hateful as criminals are. An inmate that becomes a Christian will want to do things right and may look to officers or staff for acceptance. He will learn rather quickly however that God will be the only one that will truly and consistently accept him in prison.

Lastly, there is the emergency count. About once a month, an emergency horn is blown like the ones at a fire station or tornado warning. All inmates stop what they are doing and go to their cells. They are locked down until the emergency count is over. This is a good time to write a letter or read the Bible or sleep. If an inmate is not getting along with his bunky, however, it can be a very difficult and stressful time. During these times a TV or tape player can help divert bunky problems because they will be locked up together for a few hours with no break. For those who are locked in cells with no bathrooms it is very hard. In such a situation, an inmate has to use a bottle or cup and it is very degrading.

During emergency counts, the administration is famous for doing shake downs. A group of officers will go into a unit removing the inmates from their cells, strip-searching them and putting them into the day room while shaking down their cells one by one. When they are done, the inmates go back to their cells and find them trashed. This can build up dislike or hatred for the officers because of the lack of respect they showed for the inmates’ personal items. It is hard enough getting such items as a TV, typewriter or tape player. When the officers throw them around, possibly breaking them, an inmate

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